Broncos’ Defensive Checklist: Six statistical areas where improvement could lead to playoffs – The Denver Post

What should constitute a Broncos’ defensive checklist for ending their playoff drought at five consecutive seasons? A look at six key statistics:

1. Points allowed

Allow fewer than 24 points per game.

2016: 9 of 12 playoff teams (Broncos 18.6).

2017: All 12 (Broncos 23.9).

2018: 10 of 12 (Broncos 21.8).

2019: 10 of 12 (Broncos 19.8).

2020: 11 of 14 (Broncos 27.9).

The outlier is last year’s 25th-place ranking in points allowed per game. Six of the seven teams who allowed more points all changed defensive coordinators during the offseason; Minnesota (coach Mike Zimmer) did not.

2. Pass rush

Record at least two sacks per game.

2016: 8 of 12 playoff teams (Broncos 42).

2017: 10 of 12 (Broncos 33).

2018: 11 of 12 (Broncos 44).

2019: 10 of 12 (Broncos 40).

2020: 13 of 14 (Broncos 42).

The Broncos had a two-sack increase last year despite losing outside linebacker Von Miller before the regular season (ankle injury). In 2018, when Miller and Bradley Chubb were last healthy, they combined for 26 1/2 sacks.

3. Takeaways

Have at least 20 takeaways for the season.

2016: 9 of 12 playoff teams (Broncos 27).

2017: 9 of 12 (Broncos 17).

2018: 10 of 12 (Broncos 28).

2019: All 12 (Broncos 17).

2020: 12 of 14 (Broncos 16).

A bugaboo for the Broncos under head coach Vic Fangio. The Broncos have ranked tied for 25th (17) and 29th (16) in his two seasons.

4. Third-down defense

Hold opponents to a conversion rate of 40% or lower.

2016: 7 of 12 playoff teams (Broncos 36.4%).

2017: 10 of 12 (Broncos 31.6%).

2018: 7 of 12 (Broncos 38.9%)

2019: 7 of 12 (Broncos 37.4%).

2020: 9 of 14 (Broncos 40.2%).

The Broncos have finished 13th and 15th on third down in Fangio’s two years.

5. Impacting the quarterback

Post an opponent’s passer rating of under 90.0.

2016: 8 of 12 playoff teams (Broncos 69.7).

2017: 6 of 12 (Broncos 91.9).

2018: 4 of 12 (Broncos 90.7).

2019: 9 of 12 (Broncos 89.8).

2020: 7 of 14 (Broncos 92.1).

The lack of takeaways impacts the opponent’s passer rating, but so does the lack of pass break-ups. The Broncos tried to address this in the offseason by adding  Ronald Darby, Kyle Fuller and Pat Surtain II, who are all aggressive and smart.

6. Stopping the run

Hold opponents to less than 100 yards rushing per game.

2016: 7 of 12 playoff teams (Broncos 130.3).

2017: 4 of 12 (Broncos 89.4).

2018: 6 of 12 (Broncos 119.6).

2019: 4 of 12 (Broncos 111.4).

2020: 5 of 14 (Broncos 130.0).

Setting the standard at 100 yards per game is probably a little greedy, but it also shows how the Broncos have come up way short of that mark in three of the past four years. In Fangio’s two years, the defense has ranked 16th and 25th against the run.

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